Google Charges Video Views Even When Identified As A Robot, Study Finds

Experts in computer networks from four research institutions have found that Google charges brands for advertisements served on YouTube even when the video platform's fraud-detection systems identify that a viewer is a robot rather than a human being.

The study -- "Understanding the detection of fake view fraud in video content portals," first reported by the Financial Times, was conducted by UC3M, Imdea, NEC Labs Europe and Polito. It evaluated the performance of the fake view detection systems of five major online video portals, including Google YouTube and Vivendi's Dailymotion.

Dailymotion discounts a larger number of fake views from monetization, but still delivers poor performance, since roughly three out of each four fake views are monetized. When researchers sent bots to visit two videos 150 times, YouTube's public view counter identified just 25 of the views as real. AdWords, Google’s service for advertisers, charged the researchers for 91 of the bot visits.

Nonetheless, the results show that YouTube’s detection system significantly outperforms all others, but still remains susceptible to attacks. 

More than half of advertising agency executives focus at least some of their clients' digital ad spend on video ads, but many remain unsure about how much return will come from those investments, according to eMarketer, which cites numbers from Strata.

Strata polled professionals at U.S. ad agencies in July 2015 and found that 56% put client budgets toward digital video ads, but 40% of those surveyed said they were unsure whether they got a good return on investment from the digital video ads they had purchased. Another 5% thought they didn't get a good return at all. 

The issue around fraud surely dampens returns on investments a bit more, but more than that, findings from the study demonstrate the detection systems at companies like YouTube and Dailymotion put the "burden of the risk on the advertisers, who pay to get their ads displayed." 

4 comments about "Google Charges Video Views Even When Identified As A Robot, Study Finds".
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  1. Justin Farrell from Vindico, September 23, 2015 at 10:56 a.m.

    Question for Laurie Sullivan-

    Does Youtube allow advertisers to run 3rd party bot blocking technology from companies like Double Verify?

    If they do, is there research you can share on how effective 3rd party bot blocking is at mitigating fraud on Youtube? Whether that be from Youtube or the research institute.

    If YT doesn't allow this ad tech, does the reserach institute have any finidngs it can share on the effectivness of bot blocking in mitigating fraud outside of closed enviornments like Youtube?

  2. Robin Solis from, September 23, 2015 at 4 p.m.

    I would also like more info as Justin Farrell  brought up.

  3. Laurie Sullivan from lauriesullivan, September 23, 2015 at 4:52 p.m.

    Click through to the study to contact the research group about your question on effectiveness of bot blocking and I will check with Google on the other.

  4. Craig Jaffe from Baruch College, Zicklin School of Business, September 28, 2015 at 9:09 a.m.

    This comment is intended to address the last paragraph of the article and to answer the questions posted. There are strict guidelines in place governing how companies in our industry are required to handle invalid traffic (i.e. bots). Advertisers are not the ones primarily responsible for distinguishing between invalid and valid traffic. In this case, Google is the entity primarily responsible. Furthermore, if Google is selling invalid traffic, then Google is breaking industry guidelines. A number of its services are audited by Ernst & Young with oversight by an objective third-party (MRC). If the audit reveals Google is selling invalid traffic, Google will not pass its audit, and the company will be stripped of its accreditation. If Google fails to address the audit findings, advertisers may begin to lose faith in Google, and could potentially put it out of business. Will Google go out of business? Will it escalate to this point? Although it is not likely, I emphasize this aspect because the guidelines are not just nice to know concepts. The guidelines are mandatory requirements. For those of us who work in digital, the guidelines are reassuring. It reminds us we work in a business where companies are accountable. All companies in this business need to follow the guidelines, especially those who are responsible for counting (i.e. video views). In this case, Google is on the hook, not the advertiser. If there are advertisers who believe Google is including invalid traffic in its counts, I encourage these advertisers to immediately contact the MRC where this issue will be effectively addressed.

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